Thursday, June 24, 2010

Being "African"...

There are so many contradictions to the statement. However when I use the word "contradiction", although it carries a negative connotation, it is those apparent "contradictions" that make being and "African" so powerful. I don't remember how many times I have mentioned it to others that Africa is a CONTINENT, not a COUNTRY! However, when someone asks me if I am African, I do not refute them and answer, "no! I'm not an AFRICAN, I am a NIGERIAN". In fact, I agree, and this is my usual reply "Yes, I am African, I'm from Nigeria."

Ah ha! In that one statement, I am clarifying not only my continental identity, but the identity of the country I come from. It is comparable to asking someone, "Are you North American?" and they replying, "Why yes! I'm from Canada." The only difference is that the majority of people recognize that there are different countries in North America, while that same majority believe that Africa is a mass, a lump of people; they fail to distinguish the countries that make up the continent.

Does that mean that songs, banners, slogans, sayings, and movements promoting a "United Africa" are enabling and thereby continuing the misconception of a "Country of Africa", a continent filled with a homogeneous group of people? This is where the "contradiction" I mentioned earlier makes it's appearance.

I bet some people would reply "yes" to the question I just posed. But this is how I see it: I have a strong identity of being an "African", hence, being a person from the continent of Africa, and therefore, I have a bond with others from the continent. Even if the people are not a part of the same ethnic group as I, even if the people do not speak the same language as I, even if the people do not worship the same god as I, even if they people are not from the same country as I, there is an inevitable bond there. It is a bond that comes from a history of oppressed, suffering, surviving, thriving, and resilient people from the continent of...AFRICA.

Hence, when I meet a person from Ethiopia, Ghana, Egypt, South Africa, etc..., I feel a connection with them. To an extent, they have seen some of the things I have seen, and they understand about the blatant corruption that plagues our countries. And although the same things happen elsewhere in the world, I feel a stronger connection this regard when I meet other Africans (as biased as that might seem). I must note this a connection that not shared by many others in other continents. For what I have observed, there is not that same "bond" between countries in North America (i.e. Canada, Mexico, USA) nor is that bond seen in Asia. From what I know, Russians do not have a "bond" with their Chinese, Mongolian, Indian, Pakistani, etc, counterparts.

...but as "KUMBAYA MY LORD" as this sounds, I must mention the nationalistic and ethno-centric pride that divides so many African people from other African people. It is a good thing to love who you are and to love your ethnicity, but when this "love" is converted to "pride" and " discrimination", then the problems arise. Those are some of the problems that continue devastate my own countrymen, and so many others all throughout the countries of Africa.

I hope my explanation isn't too difficult to understand, but a thorough investigation of this subject is a difficult task.

Here, let me try to say it as tersely as I can.

Yes, I am an African. I come from a continent that is teeming with the culture of billions. I come from a continent that is overflowing with resources that have been stolen and misused, but I also come from a continent that possesses strong, powerful people. However, within this continent, I was born in a country named Nigeria. Mine is a nascent country, a country with several of it's own problems. Yes, as contradictory as it may sound, I have identify as a Nigerian, but also as a African. For even though Africa is a continent with 53 countries and over 1 billion people, I share a common history with those people that even I cannot completely explain.


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